Beware of some people who recommend books on hearsay when they haven't read them! I've even seen GM's do this based on what other GM's have said. Obviously GM recommendations should be respected but different books suit different people. I am recommending these books because I own them and they are excellent. They cover all the variations with good analysis, however, not all have illustrative games and only a few of them are repertoire books. I prefer the old school opening book, the kind that goes through masses of lines with detailed analysis up to about move fifteen. Johansson is the only author I have come across who is still true to the old school. I love this style because a more extensive coverage of lines is necessary for correspondence chess, which I play a lot of.
I have noticed as I read over my reviews that I have a general tendency to rate more highly the books where I play that opening compared to books where I only face the opening. I think this might be because I am less familiar with the opening and so I am not in as good a position to review that book.
Some books have good reviews at jeremysilman.com and chessville.com. Some, particularly Everyman chess, have a preview of contents and a small sample of a chapter.
booko.com.au is great. Just type the book you want into the search box and it gives you all the places you can buy it with prices and shipping costs.
bookdepository.com is the best site to order books - free, fast shipping worldwide!
alibris.com is a great place to get hard-to-find books, it also specialises in second-hand books that ship world wide (unlike other sites that only ship second-hand books within the US). For some reason old books that are still in print are extremely expensive. I bought the classic The Complete Alekhine 1992 for $15 ($50 new on Amazon), The Alekhine for the Tournament Player 1985 for $5 ($70 new on Amazon) and best of all The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Keybook II 1999 for $40 ($125 new on Amazon). All three arrived in excellent condition.
Fishpond and Booktopia are good Australian sites.
Amazon is useful to see good reviews of the books.
Abe Books is a subsidiary of Amazon and it is an excellent source of second hand books from book shops around the world. I found the extremely rare classic 2000 Morra Gambit by IM Jozef Palkovi which came from an obscure book shop in Germany. I also managed to find a rare second hand 1998 The King's Gambit for the Creative Aggressor by Thomas Johansson. Both arrived in excellent condition, I wouldn't have known they were second hand.
I have set these books out under "playing as white" and "playing as black" according to the openings I play, but of course the books are good whether you play the openings yourself or you face them.
****Nunn's Chess Openings - GM John Nunn, GM Joe Gallagher, GM John Emms and FM Graham Burgess 1999
This is the first book you need as an opening theory fanatic, it is an encyclopedia of nearly all the openings you will see. It is not neccessary for beginners and perhaps difficult to follow becuase it is so comprehensive and contains no explanations whatsoever, but a must for stronger players.
Playing as White
Black plays 1...c5
*****The Complete c3 Sicilian: the Alapin Vaiation by its greatest expert - GM Evgeny Sveshnikov 2010
This book is simply beautiful. It contains engaging prose covering the history, development and current praxis of the Alapin. It covers the Alapin's historical development with games played by the old greats: Alapin himself, Nimzowitch, Alekhine, Andersson, Capablanca, Petrosian, Reti, Tarrasch and Tartakower. It covers modern developments by Fischer, Smyslov and co. And recent theory with Anand, Kasparov, Karpov and co. It is a massive 574 pages with 554 games for $25 USD. It is set out in a simple way covering the two main responses to 1.e4 c5 2.c3 - 2...d5 and 2...Nf6. It also covers less promising lines for Black. The detail is incredible. After an introduction of the themes in the variation of each chapter, Sveshnikov covers numbers of lines through in-depth analysis of illustrative games. I can't say any more. If you don't want to engage your opponent in the Sicilian (which you shouldn't do unless you also play it as Black) then buy this book.
*****The Modern Morra Gambit: A Dynamic Weapon Against the Sicilian - FM Hannes Langrock 2007A definite 5 stars. A second edition has just been released in 2012. A superb tome on the Smith-Morra Gambit and considered by many to be the best Smith-Morra resource to date, although it competes with Taylor's 2010 contribution. I have not read Taylor, it is a repertoire book which gives it a different goal to Langrock, but some reviews I have read give preference to Taylor over Langrock. Langrock has the rare quality of using illustrative games and covering many lines with a comprehensive analysis of alternative moves. It is considered the best resource to date because it covers emerging lines that are becoming popular for White. The introduction provides a brief overview of common motifs. There is one chapter on the Smith-Morra Gambit Declined with good coverage of 3...d3 and 3...e5, one game on 3...d5 with small coverage of 2...g6, 2...e6. It would be good to see more on the Smith-Morra Gambit Declined but in my experience Black usually accepts the Gambit or plays 3...Nf6 transposing into the Alapin Variation aka the c3 Sicilian.
*****Morra Gambit - IM Jozef Palkovi 2000
This is an excellent book on the Smith-Morrra Gambit which still seems current despite being 12 years old. It was considered the best Smith-Morra resource in its day before Langrock's 2007 contribution. It is also a well deserved 5 stars. It provides good discussion of the themes behind many of the variations with recommendations of the best lines to take as White. It takes the illustrative games format. Unfortunately it is out of print and it is very hard to get your hands on a second hand copy but if you can find it it will be well worth the search.
Black plays 1...e5
The Ruy Lopez Move by Move - GM Neil Mc Donald (Just bought, will review soon)
Spanish Repertoire for Black - GM Mihail Marin 2007 (Just bought, will review soon)
Spanish Gambits - GM Leonid Shamkovich & FM Eric Schiller 2011 (Just bought, will review soon)
Dangerous Weapons: 1.e4 e5 - Dazzle Your Opponents - GM John Emms, GM Glenn Flear and IM Andrew Greet 2008 (Just bought, will review soon)
****Beating the Open Games - GM Mihail Marin 2005
Marin writes excellent introductions to each of the openings covering an interesting history of their development and the general themes. This is a repertoire book for Black, but it works for White. It does not cover all the alternatives that White may face against Black . As a repertoire book for Black it really only works when facing stronger opponents because it does not cover early deviations from the Main Line that White may play against Black. Nevertheless, it covers the main themes that should give you enough knowledge to capitalise on non-book moves by White.
**The Traxler Conterattack CD Rom - Daniel Heisman 2000.
I'm not sure how to rate this. It is my first CD Rom opening "book" and I find it hard to follow. Many of my friends at Canberra Chess Club have lots of CD Rom "books" and they love them. They are older guys too, maybe I am just not as tech savy as them.
The Vienna Game - IM Garry Lane 2000 (Just bought, will review soon).
The King's Gambit - GM John Shaw 2012 (on order not yet published).
This book is only concerned with the King's Bishop Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.f4!? exf4 3.Bc4!? I do not know of any other resource that focuses on this variation, which was played more often than 3.Nf3 in the 1800s and is becoming popular again with super GM's such as Nigel Short playing it. Various King's Gambit declined lines are also covered. Since buying this book I have had great success with the King's Bishop Gambit. I used to play the King's Knight Gambit because I feared Qh4+ - not any more, there are many tactics on the misplaced Queen that white can play.
This is one of the best chess books I own because it goes through just about every line you will see black play and gives sound recommendations for white, showing why alternatives are weaker. If there were six stars I would give them. This is an old school opening book, the kind that goes through masses of lines with detailed analysis up to about move fifteen. I love this style and Johansson is the only author I have come across who is still true to the old school. If you are a person who likes opening books that go through illustrative games, then this book is not for you.
At first I found the lines hard to follow becuase the I thought the book was not set out that well. It does take more time to go through for this reason but do not let this put you off. With time I became to get used to the set out of the lines and after a bit of work it has paid off. In fact, once you understand it the set out is excellent. If you love gambits then buy this book!
*****The King's Gambit for the Creative Aggressor - Thomas Johansson (highest rating 2250) 1998
This book is another of Johansson's masterpieces. It is set out beautifully with all of Black's variations against the King's Knight Gambit. The great thing about it is that it's a hard cover that opens out easily so you don't have pages flipping over on you as you read. It is unique in that is has both German and English in the one book. It is great for White but like so many King's Gambit books, it does not offer Black much theory if White diverges from the recommended lines.
**** Winning with the King's Gambit - GM Joe Gallagher 1992
Gallagher provides recommend lines for White and does not cover lines that he believes are less sound for White. There is good analysis of the illustrative games and plenty of variations are covered. This book only covers the King's Knight Gambit so I cannot compare the King's Gambit accepted lines with the only other KG book I own, Johannson's superb contribution to the King's Bishop Gambit theory, the 2005 The Fascinating King's Gambit.
I can compare Gallagher with Johannson 2005 on the KG declined. Johannson provides a far more extensive coverage of declined variations, nine chapters to Gallagher's four. Concerning the Falakbeer Counter Gambit, which is the most important of the declined variations (and was once considered the refutation of the King's Gambit before 4.d3! was accepted as the Main Line) I find Gallagher's coverage excellent and easy to follow and his recommendations are solid and easy to play. Johannson 2005 adds some novel lines that he recommends which are quite different to the ones Ghallager considers. Take the 4...Qxd5 variation for example. After 1.e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4 4. d3 Qxd4, the Main Line is 5. Qe2 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 Bd2. Ghallager instead recommends 5. Qe2 Nf6 6. Nd2! preventing 6...Bb4. Johansson does not consider Ghallager's recommendation in his book (although he is definitely is aware of it because he cites Gallagher in his bibliography), instead he recommends 5.Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd2 BxNc3 7. BxBc3 Ne7 8.dxe4!. After playing both lines in correspondence games I am not convinced that Johannson's recommendation is better, I found it harder to play whereas 5.Qe2 Nf6 6.Nd2! was very straight forward, but Johansson's line does sound better on paper, as he writes, "White's Bishops [Black only has the light square Bishop left whereas in Ghallager's recommendation Black retains the Bishop pair] and better development should give him an edge if he refrains from snatching the g pawn". Maybe Johansson's recommendation plays better for stronger players than me.
You may ask why I am comparing a 1992 book with a 2005 book. The reason is that I feel that Gallagher is not necessarily outdated. Some of the lines that Gallagher recommends from 1992 made it into tournament praxis, they may be a bit out dated now by GM standards, I cannot say because I am still waiting for the publication of Shaw's much anticipated 2012 contribution and I am trying to get my hands on a second hand copy of Johansson's highly regarded 1998 The King's Gambit for the Creative Aggressor. From what I have seen of reviews, Johansson 1998 provides some fresh new ideas compared with Gallagher. Nevertheless, for club players who are looking for solid and readily playable lines for tournament play, correspondence or Blitz, I am sure that Gallagher's recommendations will stand up.
Black Plays 1...e6
How to Beat the French Defence: the essential guide to the Tarrasch - IM Andreas Tzermiadianos 2008 (Just bought, will review soon)
****Chess Explained, The French - GM Viacheslav Eingorn & IM Valentin Bogdanov 2008, translated by Steve Giddens, edited by FM Graham Burgess and typeset by GM John Nunn.
This book is a must have for French Defence beginners or experts. With these five great names contributing to this book you can't go wrong, They have all made ground breaking contributions to opening theory. Especially Burgess' 1992 and Bogdanov's 2010 contributions to the Alekhine literature which I rate very highly and are considered by most to be the best Alekhine resources around. This book contains 25 illustrative games with comprehensive analysis and coverage of different lines. There is one chapter on the Advance Variation 1.e5 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5; two chapters on the Tarrasch Variation 1.e5 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 and 3...c5; one chapter on the Burn and Rubenstein Variations where Black plays dxe4; one chapter on the Classical Variation 1.e5 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc6 Nf3 and three chapters on various Winawer Variations 1.e5 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc6 Bb4 with various continuations; 4.e4 c5 with various continuations and the Main Line 5.a3 Bxc3 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. Qg4. Each chapter has a brief introduction on the themes behind the variations.
The introduction points out that "the relatively modest size of this book means that we shall only cover the most fundamental theoretical lines, and discuss in general terms the methods by which the struggle is conducted in various important French structures". Despite this disclaimer I would have liked to have seen more on the Classical Variation since I play that often when transposing from the Alekhine Defence 2. Nc3 Variation. This also sees me facing the Steinitz variation to which this book only devotes one game. As a matter of interest, while older books cannot really be compared, Psakhis' 2004 French Defence: Steinitz, Classical, and other Systems does not cover the Winawer Variation but has three chapters on the Steinitz varitation, two on the Rubenstein Variation, three on the Burn Variation and two on the Classical Variation. Psahis' 1992 The Complete French has one chapter on the Exchange Variation, one chapter on the Advance Variation, one chapter on the Rubenstein and Burn Variations, one chapter on the MacCutheon Variation, four chapters on the Tarrasch Variation, one on the Steinitz Variation, one on the Classical Variation and five on the Winawer Variation. Despite only covering the most well-trodden lines, I consider Chess Explained: the French of great value to those who are already expert on French theory as it provides the most up to date analysis.
Once you familiarise yourself with the "fundamental theoretical lines" in this book, I recommend that you compliment it with John Watson's 2007 Dangerous Weapons: the French - Dazzle Your Opponents. Watson provides attacking novelties not considered in other literature. I recommend Watson to anyone who is already well up to date on French Defence theory and is looking for some new ideas to out theory their opponent. I also recommend it for White players who do not play the French Defence themselves; using Watson's novel attacking ideas will take Black French Defence experts out of their familiar lines.
****Dangerous Weapons: the French - Dazzle Your Opponents - IM John Watson 2007
This book contains innovative attacking ideas that white and black can use in the French Defence and surprise the opponent. It comprises illustrative games with some good analysis, covering traps for Black and White to set for the unsuspecting opponent. It does not the common lines in the French, just those that IM Watson recommends for the attacking play. I recommend this book to anyone who is already well up to date on French Defence theory, already owns a good French resource on the main lines, like Eingorn & Bogdanov 2008, and is looking for some new ideas to out theory their opponent. I also recommend it for White players who do not play the French Defence themselves; using Watson's novel attacking ideas would take Black French Defence experts out of their familiar lines.
***French Defence (Tournament Player's Repertoire of Openings) - GM Alexi Suetin 1988
This is the first opening book I ever bought, I got hooked on the French and played it exclusively against 1.e4 for 15 years. This book is the reason I became an opening theory fanatic! It contains just about every line available For example it covers the 2.b3 The Reti Gambit which I haven't seen in other French books. While the coverage is not as deep as other books it is a perfect introduction to the French Defence. If you prefer a book with illustrative games then this book is not for you. Although I really love this book I'm not sure I should recommend it since it is a bit old now; you will be better to get Viacheslav Eingorn & Bogdanov 2008. Nevertheless, if you haven't played the French before I think this book is perfect for you.
Black Plays 1...c6
****Caro-Kann Mainline - GM Neil McDonald 2001
I bought this book because I exclusively play the main line against the Caro Kann 1.e4,c6 2.d4,d5 3.Nc3,dxe4 4.Nxe4... It covers Black's three main responses: 4...Nd7 4...Bf5 (the best response in my opinion) and the increasilgy popular, attacking 4...Nf6. Because this book only covers the main line it does not look at alternative 4th moves for Black, 4...g6 is sometimes played for example but need not worry White. Due to its coverage of only three variations, this is one of those rare books that manages to cover all the lines with illustrative games with enough analysis of alternative moves. The introduction is excellent, covering thematic opening ideas around the battle for the four centre squares - when to give up control of one square to control another.
*****The Fascinating Reti Gambit - Thomas Johansson (highest rating 2250) 2007
This anti-French gambit opening (1.e4 e6 2. b3 d5 3. Bb2?!) is indeed fascinating and there are many traps that White can lay for Black. There is little literature on the Reti Gambit to my knowledge, except for some small papers. The only other source I own on The Reti Gambit is a small but decent mention in my 1988 book by GM Suetin French Defence (Tournament Player's Repertoire of Openings) which provides an example from one game but fails to go through the traps. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing through the many variations in this book. The analysis provides many examples of sacrifices that White can play and mistakes that Black can play and how to capitalise on them. This is a rare quality in chess books. Again if there were six stars I would give them, Johansson's books are of the upmost quality and follow the old style of providing masses of lines and analysis up to about move 15 rather than illustrative games which fail to look at enough lines.
Black plays 1... d6
****The Pirc in Black and White: Detailed Coverage of an Enterprising Chess Opening - FM James Vigus 2007
This books is a superb overview of the Pirc Defence (pronounced Peertz), 1.e4, d6 2. d4, Nf6 3. Nc6, g6. It is great because it covers modern theoretical developments. It comprises a number of illustrative games in each chapter with some analysis of alternative moves. The book covers each of the important lines that white should play on the fourth move. The Austrian Attack (two chapters), the Fianchetto Variation, the Classical Variation, the Accelerated Classical, the 4.f3 system, the 150 attack 4.Bg5 4.Bc4, 4.Bf4 and the Spike 4. Be2, Bg7 (like the Classical Variation) then 5.g4!?
However, for me, there is not enough coverage of lines and analysis of alternative moves for it to be called a detailed coverage. This is the problem with many opening books that follow the illustrative games format. This is an excellent book to play against the Pirc Defence as white, but I think it is probably not complete enough if you play it as black. I prefer the old style opening books that cover masses of lines up to about move 15 with detailed analysis. This book needs to be complimented with the older classic Pirc Alert which is also in an illustrative games format and doesn't cover all the lines. But using them together you will have an excellent repertoire for playing the Pirc Defence.
****Pirc Alert! - A Complete Defence Against 1. e4 - GM Lev Alburt and GM Alex Chermin 2001
This books is a superb overview of the Pirc Defence. It comprises a number of illustrative games in each chapter with some analysis of alternative moves. However, for me, there is not enough coverage of lines and analysis of alternative moves. The books I prefer cover the old style opening books which cover masses of lines with thourough analysis up to about move 15. However, it more than makes up for this with it's extensive coverage of theoretical opening ideas which is admittedly something that the old style books lack.
This book needs to be complimented with the newer The Pirc in Black and White: Detailed Coverage of an Enterprising Chess Opening, which is also in an illustrative games format and doesn't cover all the lines. What the newer book does have is modern theoretical developments. Using them together you will have an excellent repertoire for playing the Pirc Defence.
Black plays 1...Nf6
****Play the Alekhine - IM Valentin Bogdanov 2010
This book is a great overview of the Alekhine Defence and is considered by many to be the best resource to date, although it does compete with IM Timothy Taylor's 2010 contribution, but that is a repertoire book and leaves out many of Black's important variations, nevertheless I have read good reviews of it and some reviewers prefer Taylor to Bogdanov. If you like books with illustrative games then Bogdanov is definitely for you. It covers all the main lines and gives good analysis of alternative moves to those played in the games.Bogdanov is a must for Alekhine Defence players because it covers modern developments, especially what Bogdanov names the new mainline: 1.e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5. Nxe5 c6! This variation is considered as a novelty in older books. As I keep saying I prefer old-style opening books with masses of lines and analysis up to move 15 and I would love to see an up to date Alekhine book like this. You will need to compliment this book with the older classic The Complete Alekhine to ensure you are completely prepared.
****The Complete Alekhine - FM Graham Burgess 1992
This is the classic contribution to Alekhine theory and was considered the best resource before IM Bogdanov's 2010 Play the Alekhine. Also in the illustrative games format Burgess considers many lines with more coverage and analysis than Bogdanov and considers some lines which Bogdanov ignores completely. However, Bogdanov is a must have for modern emerging lines. The index of variations in this book is better than Bogdanov 2010 and GM Alburt & FM Schiller's 1985 The Alekhine for the Tournament Player. Bogdanov 2010 and Alburt & Schiller 1992 list variations by chapter which is very confusing when you are looking for a specific line. Burgess 1992 lists the variations in the old school way, by move order, which is quite rare these days, Johansson is the only other author I know who still does it. This method makes it much easier to find specific lines at a glance, it is also better if you are new to the opening and do not know how the variations go. For this reason I go to Burgess first when playing correspondence before consulting Bogdanov and Alburt & Schiller.
***The Alekhine for the Tournament Player (Tournament Player's Repertoire of Opening Series) - GM Lev Alburt and FM Eric Schiller 1985
Many lines are a bit outdated but there are alternative lines to those covered in FM Burgess 1992 and IM Bogdanov 2010. Also lines that are not up to date by GM standards are still quite playable at club level. This book is very well set out with different lines to specific variations that are given their own chapter which makes it very easy to follow. Not a must have, but I expect it was regarded as one of the best in its time.
1. e4 and 1. d4 (1.e4 when tranposing from 1... d5, the Scandanavian, otherwise white plays 1.d4)
*****The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Keybook II - Tim Sawyer 1999
This 400 page book covers the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit or BGD in great depth with loads of lines and analysis of great games. It is now in its third edition. It contains two pages on BGD concepts by Tom Purser and a six page theory section. It contains 2,800 games covering Black's ways to avoid the BGD, where Black declines the Gambit, various BGD accepted lines, the four main BDG variations: Ewue, Bogoljubow, Gunderam and Teichmann. Disappointingly, it only provides 3 games on the Ryder Gambit which is my favourite variation.
*****The Ryder Gambit Accepted (2nd. ed) - FM Eric Schiller & John Clayton 2011
This is a great little book. It comprises illustrative games, with around three games per chapter. Each chapter follows a different line after 1. d4, d5 2.e4, dxe4 (this of course transposes from the Scandinavian Defence 1. e4, d5. 2.e4, dxe4) 3. Nc3, Nf6 4. f3, exf3 5. Qxf3, Qxd4 6.Be3,... It also has a section in the back for other 6th moves that white can play. The great thing about this book is that each game has plenty of analysis of alternative lines after nearly every move, something you don't usually see in books with illustrative games. The other great thing is there are lots of diagrams so you can look through the lines in your head.
Of course this book is only about the Ryder Gambit accepted. Black will not always play the Main Line Blackmarr-Diemer Gambit until move 4 capturing with 4...exf3 and in my experience Black is even less likely to accept the Ryder Gambit after 5.Qxf3 with 5...Qxd4 - Black indeed fears being two pawns up. You will need to compliment this book with The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Keybook.
This is an excellent historical book with all 116 analysed and annotated games played by Edgard Colle using the Colle system. The games feature a lot of discussion which is a refreshing approach. The Colle system is usually seen these days as a solid defensive system however, Colle was an attacking player prefering to win quickly or be defeated in the process. His style of playing the Colle system often involved moving the light squared Bishop to c2 and the Queen to d3 attacking h7, then sacrificing the dark squared Bishop on h6. This book can be complimented with the Ultimate Colle which features the line where white fiancettos the dark squared Bishop (this is not the genuine Colle system but it is handy to know).
****The Ultimate Colle - IM Gary Lane 2001
This is an excellent overview of the Colle system featuring illsutrative games with plenty of analysis and alternative moves. The book spends two chapters on the Colle-Zukertort System (which is not really the Colle System) where white fianchettos the dark squared Bishop. This system is excellent to play and very handy for Colle system players when they cannot play e5 and unleash the dark squared Bishop on the King side. This book is well complimented by Colle Plays the Colle System which features all 116 of Edgard Colle's games where he played the Colle System.
Playing as Black
White Plays 1.e4, I recommend 1... e5 - see Beating the Open Games, Dangerous Weapons e4 e5, and Spanish Gambits above.
White Playes 1. d4
****Play the Benko Gambit - IM Nicolai V. Pedersen 2011
This book is a superb contribution to Benko Gambit theory. The introduction gives a brief outline of thematic opening ideas for white and black. It of course covers the 2 main Benko Gambit accepted variations for White: the Classical Variation 7. e4 BxBf1 and 7.g3 the Fianchetto Variation. What is outstanding about this book is it's coverage of Benko Gambit declined lines. It gives a detailed covereage in separate chapters of the three main declined variations: 5. e3, 5. f3 which I have never played against and 5. b6 which is the most difficult to play against in my experience. It also canvases 7 other less played Benko Gambit declined lines. It also gives a detailed coverage of two "anit Benko lines": 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nf3 where it recommends the Kasparov Gambit 3...cxd5 4.Nxd4 e5 and the Topalov Variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4.Bg5 Ne4.
This book will be well complimented by the 2005 The Benko Gambit by IM Jan Pinski. While it does not cover as many lines as Play the Benko Gambit, it considers some rare variations, gives more detailed coverage of some of the declined lines, three more Anti Benko variations and recommends different lines in the main variations. Also the Benko Gambit's introduction has a comprehensive 23 page disertation on the Benko Gambit pawn structure which is a must read.
****The Benko Gambit.- IM Jan Pinski 2005
This is a superb little book which covers a lot in only 120 pages. This is more than made up for by the introduction, which is the best I have ever read on any opening - a comprehensive 23 page disertation on the Benko Gambit pawn structure featuring 8 illustrative games and other part games.
Chapters 1-3 follow Benko Gambit accepted lines:
Chapter 1 follows features three illustrative games on the more rare Benko Gambit Accepted lines which are not considered by Pedersen:
a). 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6! 6.Nc3 bxa6 7. e4, Bxf1 8. Kxf1 d6 9. g4?!
b). 6.Nc3 bxa6 7. f4
c). 6.Nf3 bxa6 7.Nc3 d6 8.Nd2
Chapter 2 follows the line " "6. Nc3 Bxa6 7.e4 the Classical Variation and featues 8 illustrative games.
Chapter 3. follows the line " " 6.g3 the Fianchetto Variation and features 8 illustrative games.
Chapters 4-7 follow Benko Gambit declined lines:
Chapter 4. follows the line " " 5.b6!? and features 5 illustrative games.
Chapter 5. follows the line" "5.e3 and features 4 illustrative games.
Chapter 6. follows the line" "5.f3 and featutes 5 illustrative games.
Chapter 7. follows the line " " 5. Nc3 axb5! and features 2 illustrative games.
Chapter 8 briefly canvases 5 Anti Benko lines 4.Bg5, 4.Qc2, 4.Nf3, 4.Nd2 and 4.a4 whereas Pedersen only considers 4.Nf3 and 4.Bg5, though in more detail.
This book needs to be complimented with Pedersen's 2011 Play the Benko Gambit. Due to its size Pinski covers less alterntative lines and the analysis of the illustrative games is less comprehensive than Pedersen. In particular Pedersen gives a more detailed covereage of 5. f3 and 5. b6 and provides more recent theoretical developments. In addition, he gives an interesting alternative to 4.Nf3, the Kasparov Gambit.
Against other white first moves
(1. Nf3) **The Dynamic Reti - GM Nigel Davies 2004
Like most books with illustrative games (which are not my preference), there are not enough lines covered and it lacks comprehensive analysis of the games. In particular, given that my response to 1.Nf3 is 1...Nf6 I was diapointed that 1...Nf3 was only given two chapters. The first covers the Symetrical English Variation 1.Nf3 c5 2. C4 Nf6. I would never play the Symetrical English since I play e5 against the English Opening. The second covers the Reti King's Indian 1.Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. b4. Does that mean that Reti players will always play 2...c4 against my 1...Nf6. That can't be all there is to the Reti opening which is meant to be one of the most flexible openings. Perhaps it means that 1...Nf6 is not so good and I should always play the Main Line 1...d4. The problem is that I never play d4 because I play the Benko Gambit. Perhaps I just don't understand this dynamic opening well enough.
(1. c5) ***The Gambit Guide to the English Opening 1...e5 - FM Carsten Hansen 1999
I don't play the English as White and I don't face it as Black that often so I don't know it well. I also don't play the Sicilian as Black and when I face it as White I play the Smith-Morra Gambit, so playing 1...e5 puts me into positions I am unfamiliar with. Against the English Opening I actually play 1...Nf6 hoping that White will play 2. d4 and then I can set up for my favourite Benko Gambit with 2...c5 3. d5 b5. However White rarely plays 2.d4, I guess it is not in the spirit of the English Opening. After 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3, FM Hansen has convinced me to play 2...e5 which seems to be the English Opening Main Line, it is the move order played most often by GMs according to the 365Chess.com GM database.
I have become particularly fond of playing c6 followed by d5 when White fianchettoes the light squared Bishop, especially in the Keres Variation which can lead to Black offering a fun pawn sacrifice for the threat of forking White's King and Rook which eventually forces White to lose the right to castle: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.g3 c6 4. Bg2 d5!? 5. cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 (determined to win back the pawn) 6...Nc6! (there is no way for Black to defend the d pawn) 7.Nxd5 Nd4 (attacking the Queen and Nc2 looks like it's coming, forking White's King and Rook) 8. NxNf6+ QxNf6 9. Qd3 Bf5 10.Be4 BxBe4 11.QxBe4 Rc8 (Nc2 cannot be stopped and White loses the right to castle, either playing 12.Kf1 or 12.Rb1 Nc2+ 13.Kf1).
This book has proved a bit difficult to follow for me since many of the lines after 1...e5 are similar because White usually plays g3 at some stage. Perhaps this is not Hansen's fault but simply the complex nature of the English. Nevertheless it is very difficult as Black to choose variations in response to White that are most suited to one's style. One Amazon reviewer pointed out that the index makes it easy to follow but I assume he plays the English as White and knows the opening more than I do. The index is of course helpful for post game analysis or correspondence games but I don't think it helps for studying the theory. It seems like one needs to wade through the book.
Despite this difficulty, the variations covered and the comprehensive analysis of the illustrative games have proved very useful for me in getting wins against the English Opening where I have been able to out theory my opponent in their favourite opening, much to their dismay.
(1. f5) ****Bird's Opening: Detailed Coverage of an Underrated and Dynamic Choice for White - IM Timothy Taylor 2005
I bought this book especially for the chapter on the From's Gambit Lasker Variation which I play exclusively against Bird's Opening. (1.f4 e5!? 2. fxe5 d6 3. exd6 Bxd6 4. Nf3 g5?!). The coverage of this variation is excellent and given the few times that I face Bird's Opening, I find that this book is all I need. I cannot comment on the other chapters although the introduction is novel, providing historical games.
At first I thought there was not enough analysis because of a lack of responses to moves that I thought may be obvious, but after careful study of the 5 illustrative games, with the help of Chess Tempo opening database and Fritz, I can see that moves that I considered natural were mistakes that did not need mentioning in the book. I have had to revise my review and I now consider that Taylor does indeed provide in depth, comprehensive analysis of a number of lines, including traps that black can set and that white needs to avoid.
The only criticism that I have is that Taylor is extremely biased against the From's Gambit Lasker Variation, almost considering it unsound. However various databases give black even chances of winning and drawing (around 33% win for white/33% draw /33% win for black depending on the database you look at). Taylor contends that with good play using current theory, white should achieve much better results. I guess this is fair enough given he is an avid Bird player with good results. He does provide one game out of five where black wins and admits that more over the board play may be necessary to test out some lines. It would have been good if he had provided black with some new emerging theory but I guess this is for another book.